U.S. judge calls for Justice Department civil rights probe into D.C. jail’s treatment of Jan. 6 detainees

As reported in the Washington Post, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth has found the warden of the D.C. jail and director of the D.C. Department of Corrections in contempt of court Wednesday and called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether the jail is violating the civil rights of dozens of detained Jan. 6 defendants.

Judge Lamberth acted after finding jail officials failed to turn over information needed to approve surgery recommended four months ago for a Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendant’s broken wrist. The failure of D.C. officials to turn over medical records is “more than just inept and bureaucratic jostling of papers,” Lamberth said in a hearing, raising the possibility of deliberate mistreatment.

Lamberth stopped short of imposing further civil sanctions on jail officials, who belatedly produced the records Tuesday, or ordering the release of inmates. But he suggested that the U.S. Marshals Service may have to move inmates from the D.C. jail to other detention facilities if they are receiving improper treatment.

The case spotlights spiraling frustration among U.S. judges over conditions at the long-troubled D.C. jail, specifically the effect of pandemic restrictions and crippling staff shortages at the facility, which houses 1,500 federal and local detainees.

Conditions at the 45-year-old facility have long been criticized by inmates, lawyers and even judges. But the complaints reached new heights this spring after prisoner advocates criticized the prolonged confinement of detainees to stamp out the coronavirus pandemic. For roughly 400 days, jail officials imposed a 23-hour-a-day lockdown to enforce social distancing before restrictions were eased this summer.

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